Jews in the News: Ali MacGraw, Danny Nucci and Robert Morse

I Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse: Watch the Most Jewish (with an asterisk) Mini-Series Ever Made

 “The Offer”, a Paramount+ original limited series, premieres on April 28. There are 10 episodes total, with the first three steaming on the 28th. It is about the intense drama surrounding the making of the original Godfather film (1972). My readers know that I “kvetch” about Jewish actors not getting Jewish parts. But I’ve got to say (and “kvell”) that “The Offer” is “the most Jewish” (writer, characters, actors) major mini-series or film that I know of. This statement excludes Israeli or Israel-related series/films, Holocaust-related works, and some small budget films about a Jewish family.

 For the first time, I am recommending that my readers subscribe to a streaming service, if only for two months.  The regular sub price is $ 5.00 a month. “The Offer” series ends in mid-June, so for ten bucks you can see it all. Plus, Paramount is bringing out of its vault all the “Godfather” films and begins streaming them on Paramount+ around the 28th.

All 10 episodes were written by MICHAEL TOLKIN, 71. His father was comedy writer MEL TOLKIN (1913-2007). Born Shmuel Tolchinsky in a shetl near Odessa (Ukraine), Mel and his family fled pogroms (1926) and settled in Canada. He moved to New York (1946) and quickly stopped being an accountant and became a top TV comedy writer for SID CAESAR, DANNY KAYE, and many others.

Michael’s credits include writing the acclaimed 1993 film "The Player” (from his novel of the same name) and co-creating “Escape at Dannemora” (2018), a well-received Showtime mini-series. He met his wife, author and psychologist WENDY MOGEL, 71, in college (Google her!). The couple became practicing Jews in the ‘90s and, after a year of Talmud and Torah study, Mogel began incorporating Jewish religious teachings into child-rearing books for “everyone”. I have to add that four episodes were directed by ADAM ARKIN, 65, the son of ALAN ARKIN, 88.

After the first three episodes stream, I’ll return to “The Offer” with comments about how the Jewish characters were depicted. Right now, here are the real-life Jewish characters in the series, who plays them, and the Jewish actors who play non-Jewish characters. All those listed appear in all 10 episodes.

Here goes: (1) ROBERT EVANS (1930-2019) was the (very handsome) head of Paramount studio when “The Godfather” was made. He is played by Matthew Goode, a good-looking Brit; (2) ALBERT RUDDY, now 92, was the principal producer of “The Godfather”. He is played by Miles Teller, whose paternal grandfather was Jewish; (3) Francis Ford Coppola, the (Italian-Catholic) director of “The Godfather”. He is played by DAN FOGLER, 45, who looks a lot like Coppola; (4) CHARLES BLUDHORN (1926-1983), was the owner of Paramount studio. Records show he was born Jewish in Austria, but he hid his Jewish background. He is played by Burn Gorman, a Brit (5) PETER BART, now 89. Formerly a journalist, he became a Paramount producer in 1967. He worked closely with Evans and Ruddy on “The Godfather”. His parents were secular Jews, the children of Austrian Jewish immigrants. Bart is played by Josh Zuckerman, 37, who is hard to run-down. I believe his father is Jewish; mother, not; (6) ALI MACGRAW, now 83. Best known as the star of “Love Story” (1970), she wed Evans in 1969. Her marriage-ending affair with Steve McQueen began around the time The Godfather was being made. MacGraw found out as an adult that her Jewish mother hid her background from her and her bigoted father; (7) FRANCOISE WIZENBERG GLAZER (1937-2014). She was Albert Ruddy’s wife during the making of “The Godfather”. Born in France, she survived the Holocaust in hiding. After the war, she moved to Israel, then came to the States in 1955. She is played by NORA ARNEZEDER, 32, a very pretty French actress. Nora's father is Austrian Catholic. Her mother is Sephardi and Nora identifies as Jewish. Nora's great-grandparents were Italian Jews who settled (1914) in Egypt. Nora's mother and "grands" had to leave Egypt in 1956.  Nora co-starred in “Zoo”, an American TV; (8) Mario Biaggi, a Bronx (not Jewish) congressman. He's played by DANNY NUCCI, 53. His parents were Moroccan Jews. He spent his first seven years in Italy, then moved to the States; and (9) Dean Tavoularis, now 89, an Oscar-winning production designer. He is played by ERIC BALFOUR, 44, (“Six Feet Under”).

Breaking News: ROBERT MORSE (“How to Succeed in Business”, “Mad Men) died, age 90, on April 20. Right after he died, a friend “dug-out” that his parents were Jewish.  More next week.


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